Beyond the mind of the maker

Adventures in knowledge making


Advances in Project Management


By Prof Darren Dalcher

Director, National Centre for Project Management
Lancaster University Management School

United Kingdom



Knowledge management is a relatively new addition to the project management bodies of knowledge but nonetheless is increasingly recognised as an area that is crucial for the success of projects, programmes and portfolios. The big challenge for many project managers is to figure out what knowledge management is, what it entails and what it can do for you.

Peter Drucker famously proclaimed that a manager is responsible for the application and performance of knowledge. However, in practice, knowledge is highly contextual and innately dynamic. Knowledge is deeply entwined with meaning, understanding and interpretation, making it difficult to grasp, let alone manage. As a result, some scholars even suggest that there is a fundamental incongruity and mismatch between the concepts of knowledge and management.

For one thing, knowledge is not manageable in the same way as a tangible resource. The intellectual capital of an organisation resides in the individuals and the communities that make up the different facets of the organisation. Management of the knowledge embedded within people requires engagement, understanding and skills related to the management of and interaction with people and their perceptions. It also necessitates intimate and ongoing engagement with the individuals and their communities in order to share, shape and co-develop the knowledge.

So, why manage knowledge?

Knowledge is essential to making informed decisions. Moreover, innovation and increased productivity both arise through the creation and application of knowledge-based assets.

Yet, Alvesson & Kärreman (2001; p. 995) assert that ‘knowledge is an ambiguous, unspecific and dynamic phenomena, intrinsically related to meaning, understanding and process, and therefore difficult to manage. There is thus a contradiction between knowledge and management.’

Hislop (2009; p. 59) positions knowledge management as a deliberate effort to manage the knowledge of an organization’s workforce. In more recent update, Hislop and colleagues (2019) further encourage a practice-based perspective, which views knowledge as a process:

The practice-based perspective considers knowledge as embodied in human beings and therefore focuses on facilitating interpersonal knowledge-sharing and processes. This requires an organizational approach and involves establishing a culture in which knowledge is shared and where managers evaluate their employees on their contribution to knowledge management.’ (Hislop et al., 2019; p. 51).

Knowledge can be embedded in tangible assets such as finished goods, completed project outputs and results, machinery and manuals. However, Hislop calls attention to the need to engage with knowledge embedded within the people that make up the organisation, thereby presenting an enormous challenge for traditionally structured organisations.

Managing knowledge, or intellectual capital, that resides in the individual employees poses significant challenges to managers. Not least, the problem of asymmetric information, where managers have significantly less knowledge than the experts or highly skilled knowledge workers that they oversee (Roberts, 2015; p. 51-2). Adler’s solution is to advocate community forms of organisation as an alternative to knowledge-based organisations (Adler, 2001).

Defillippi et al. (2006) note that knowledge work is neither created nor used in a social vacuum. Participants in knowledge work deal with a complex web of relationships among people and activities. Typically, there is a tendency to focus on a single type of participant and their interactions and processes. However, Defillippi et al. contend that there is a need to explain how each of the participants in knowledge work influences and is in turn influenced by the other participants. To gain a fuller picture of the different types of knowledge participants and their interactions they construct the knowledge diamond (p. 19) with four focal groups of participants (summarised and paraphrased below, after pp. 17-18):



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Editor’s note: The PMWJ Advances in Project Management series includes articles by authors of program and project management books published by Gower and other publishers in the Routledge family.  Each month an introduction to the current article is provided by series editor Prof Darren Dalcher, who is also the editor of the Gower/Routledge Advances in Project Management series of books on new and emerging concepts in PM.  Prof Dalcher’s article is an introduction to the invited paper this month in the PMWJ. 

How to cite this paper: Dalcher, D. (2019). Beyond the mind of the maker: Adventures in knowledge making, PM World Journal, Volume VIII, Issue IX, October.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/pmwj86-Oct2019-Dalcher-beyond-the-mind-of-the-maker.pdf



About the Author

Darren Dalcher, PhD

Author, Professor, Series Editor
Director, National Centre for Project Management
Lancaster University Management School, UK



Darren Dalcher, Ph.D., HonFAPM, FRSA, FBCS, CITP, FCMI, SMIEEE, SFHEA is Professor in Strategic Project Management at Lancaster University, and founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management (NCPM) in the UK.  He has been named by the Association for Project Management (APM) as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management and was voted Project Magazine’s “Academic of the Year” for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”. Following industrial and consultancy experience in managing IT projects, Professor Dalcher gained his PhD in Software Engineering from King’s College, University of London.

Professor Dalcher has written over 200 papers and book chapters on project management and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Software: Evolution and Process, a leading international software engineering journal. He is the editor of the book series, Advances in Project Management, published by Routledge and of the companion series Fundamentals of Project Management.  Heavily involved in a variety of research projects and subjects, Professor Dalcher has built a reputation as leader and innovator in the areas of practice-based education and reflection in project management. He works with many major industrial and commercial organisations and government bodies.

Darren is an Honorary Fellow of the APM, a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts, A Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the British Academy of Management. He is a Chartered IT Practitioner. He sits on numerous senior research and professional boards, including The PMI Academic Member Advisory Group, the APM Research Advisory Group, the CMI Academic Council and the APM Group Ethics and Standards Governance Board.  He is the Academic Advisor and Consulting Editor for the next APM Body of Knowledge. Prof Dalcher is an academic advisor for the PM World Journal.  He is the academic advisor and consulting editor for the forthcoming edition of the APM Body of Knowledge. He can be contacted at d.dalcher@lancaster.ac.uk.

To view other works by Prof Darren Dalcher, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/darren-dalcher/.